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Pregnancy and employment: a literature review
Russell, Helen; Banks, Joanne
This literature review forms part of a major new research study on women’s experiences in the workplace during and after pregnancy, commissioned by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme and the Equality Authority. In addition to this review the research involved a study of pregnancy discrimination cases in the Equality Tribunal and Labour Court, 1999 – 2008 (Banks & Russell, 2011) and a nationwide survey of 2,300 working mothers (Russell, Watson, Banks, forthcoming). The broad objective of the research project was to investigate the influence of pregnancy and childbirth on women’s employment experiences, including an assessment of pregnancy-related discrimination in Ireland, and how these experiences are shaped by organisational factors and women’s attitudes and characteristics. While there is a very substantial literature on the impact of childbearing on women’s employment careers and on the transitions back into work, these studies focus on the period after childbirth and rarely focus on pregnancy. Instead there is a rather separate literature on pregnancy in the workplace, which deals with the health consequences of employment during pregnancy, pregnancy discrimination and maternity rights. In this literature review we bring together evidence from both these sources to consider how pregnancy and maternity is experienced in the workplace and to understand the immediate and longer term outcomes of pregnancy and childbirth on women’s employment. Over the past few decades women’s participation in the paid labour market has risen substantially both in Ireland and internationally. As a consequence, pregnancy in the workplace has become a much more common occurrence. Nevertheless, while there is a large literature on the issue of gender and employment and on the intersection of work and family life, the experience of pregnancy in the workplace is less well researched. McDonald and Dear (2006) note that “there is a paucity of empirical work ... which has explored women’s experiences of pregnancy in the workplace, much less the patterns of behaviour reported in cases where women experience disadvantage as a result of pregnancy.” Attitudes, norms and stereotypes concerning the roles of mothers and of workers and perceived conflicts between these roles are more likely to become evident for pregnant workers (Halpert et al, 1993). Pregnancy and childbirth also necessitate a break in employment for mothers, and the way in which this interruption is managed has important implications for women’s working and family lives. The potential vulnerability of pregnant workers to unfavourable treatment and discrimination, to health and safety risks and to problems associated with reintegration into employment, is recognised in maternity-protection legislation and in anti-discrimination legislation in many European jurisdictions. Entitlements for Irish workers during pregnancy and the early period of maternity are outlined in Banks and Russell (2011).
Publication Date:
Type: Report
Peer-Reviewed: Unknown
Language(s): English
Contributor(s): Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI)
Institution: Lenus
Publisher(s): HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme and the Equality Authority
First Indexed: 2014-04-02 06:12:54 Last Updated: 2017-04-26 08:28:24